If the Washington Capitals visit the White House as part of a tradition for most championship teams, forward Brett Connolly won’t be attending, he told reporters in Toronto on Wednesday. Connolly is the second player to say he would decline an invitation, joining forward Devante Smith-Pelly.
"I don’t think it’s the right thing to do," Connolly said at BioSteel Camp, an annual preseason training session for NHL players and prospects, noting that "it has nothing to do with politics."
"Everyone is entitled to their opinion," added Connolly, who is Canadian. "I think there’ll be a few guys not going, too. Like I said, it has nothing to do with politics. It’s about what’s right and wrong, and we’ll leave it at that."
President Donald Trump has yet to officially invite the Capitals to the White House, but most major professional championship teams have received invitations in recent years. Trump canceled the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles’ visit to the White House in June after some players said they would skip the ceremony to protest the president and his rhetoric. When the Golden State Warriors won the 2017 NBA championship, multiple players, including Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant, said they would not visit the White House. They were later uninvited by Trump. The Warriors won another title this year, and Curry has already said he does not want to attend a White House celebration.
Other title-winning teams, including the Houston Astros, Pittsburgh Penguins and New England Patriots, have visited Trump’s White House.
Less than a week after the Capitals won the franchise’s first Stanley Cup, players were polled about a White House visit and most said they would attend. Connolly declined to comment at the time. Smith-Pelly, who is black and Canadian, was asked about the subject while the Capitals were still playing in the Stanley Cup Final, and he said then he would not want to visit the White House because "the things that ?Trump? spews are straight-up racist and sexist."
"Some of the things he’s said are pretty gross," Smith-Pelly told Canada’s Postmedia. "I’m not too into politics, so I don’t know all his other views, but his rhetoric I definitely don’t agree with."
Smith-Pelly stood by his remarks when he was again asked about a White House visit after the season, and he said his teammates "have his back."
"I said what I said, and that is what I believe," Smith-Pelly said. "Again, I haven’t thought about it any more than that. I stand by what I said. . . . They can do whatever they want, you know what I mean? When I said what I said, no one in the room said, ‘Hey, maybe you should do this or maybe you should do that.’ Everyone can do whatever they want. I will still love ?captain Alex Ovechkin? if he goes and the other guys if they go."